How Can I Become a Commercial Artist?

Research what it takes to become a commercial artist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Design Strategy & Innovation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Commercial Artist?

Commercial artists use their artistic abilities to produce images and illustrations that are used for advertising products or with animation. It's common to see their work on billboards, advertisements and product packaging. They may meet with the client or receive concept descriptions related to the project. They then use this information to develop proposals for visual designs that can be used to fulfill the client's objectives. Commercial artists may develop drafts of material by hand, using ink or charcoal or another appropriate medium. However, they frequently use computer design software to develop their material or to finalize the images and illustrations.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Fine arts, graphic design or a similar field
Key Skills Graphic design, multiple art media, creativity
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% for craft and fine artists*
1% for graphic artists*
Median Salary (2015) $45,080 for craft and fine artists*
$46,900 for graphic artists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would My Job Duties Be as a Commercial Artist?

As a commercial artist, you generally create images that are meant to help sell a product. For example, you might be responsible for drawing illustrations for brochures or creating images for produce packages. You are often required to combine your artistic talent with business savvy. Whether you are creating an illustration for an advertisement or an image for a billboard, you need to know how to make your work eye-catching and how to positively meet your client's needs. You may work as part of a team under the supervision of an art director, or you could work on a freelance basis for multiple clients. You may also work in an office setting and spend your time standing at a drawing board or sitting in front of a computer.

Do I Need a Degree?

Though a degree is not always required to get started in the field, many companies prefer to hire commercial artists who have studied in a 4-year art program. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (www.nasad.arts-accredit.org) lists more than 350 accredited schools that offered fine arts degree programs in the U.S. in 2015. When enrolled in an Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program, you take art classes in many different mediums and learn art concepts that can further your artistic knowledge. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employers are increasingly looking for artists with computer knowledge, so taking computer art classes could provide you with the skills to land a salaried position (www.bls.gov).

What is the Job Outlook?

CollegeBoard.com notes that commercial art is a good career path for the artistically inclined who want to support themselves through their art. The amount of money you can earn as a commercial artist varies by location and skill level. The BLS reports that in 2015, craft and fine artists made a median annual wage of $45,080. The number of job opportunities for craft and fine artists is expected to increase 2% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS, which is slower than the national average for all occupations. Graphic designers were expected to experience a 1% rate of job growth during the same decade. As of May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $46,900 for graphic artists.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Drafters and photographers share some aspects of their work with commercial artists. Drafters take information that's provided to them by engineers, architects or other professionals and use that information to produce technical illustrations, such as blueprints or schematics. They need artistic abilities to perform these tasks, and they also need to be trained to use computer-aided design software. Their skill requirements are comparable to the requirements for commercial artists, although drafters only need an associate's degree.

Photographers also produce two-dimensional visual images. They need to be skilled with photographic equipment and need a high school diploma, although some employers may prefer photographers with an associate's or bachelor's degree. Like commercial artists, they may produce images that will be used for advertisements and appear on billboards, posters or other printed materials.

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